Many non-European Union citizens are in the same situation. They come to Spain in order to study. They start their degree, masters or P.hD, and after a few years in the country, they realize that they would like to stay in for the long run. Therefore, after finishing their studies, the next step is to get a work permit. But, how to do it? Which are the different options that a student in Spain has in order to start working legally in the country? How exactly can you get a work permit in Spain with a student visa? In this post, we are going to explain the main 4 ways that will allow you to do that. Are you ready?


1. Get your initial work authorization


The first option to transition from student visa to work permit is the one that has been more used traditionally. 

This option requires you to have been staying with your student visa as a resident in the country for 3 consecutive years (soon this may change and the years required will go down, and you can learn more here). Then, you can get your initial work authorization, which will allow you to legally work in the country. 

You may consider that the 3-year requirement is a downside, as you will need to wait the whole time frame. Nevertheless, it has something positive.

Whenever you apply for a regular work permit, you will find that things are not easy. The offer you receive must be inside a shortage list. This list is a set of job positions offered to foreigners. If the job position is not in that list, you cannot get the work permit. This list considers the national situation of unemployment, meaning that many job positions will be first offered to nationals. Then, if no national actually got the job, it will be included on the list and offered to non-EU citizens. 

As you may imagine, this list is not long. And that does not help you get your permit.

The positive thing of applying for a work permit coming from a student visa is that you can skip that list. The national situation of unemployment won’t be considered in order to approve this modification to a working visa. 

In this sense, you have two options to get the work permit under the student status: 



Work permit as an employee


This is the case in which you don’t want to start your own company but work for a company in the Spanish territory. In Spanish, this permit is called “por cuenta ajena”.

You will just need to get a job offer and you will be granted the permit to work. As we have just mentioned, as the situation of unemployment is not considered, the procedure is really simple and nearly every job position will work. But remember that you must have been living in Spain for at least 3 years. 

Bear in mind that the competence work for permits is something that depends on the government of the autonomous community. This means that you won’t apply to the Immigration Office, but to the office that corresponds to your region. In the case that you are in Catalonia, for example, the corresponding institution will be the Generalitat. 

You will need to go to this specific office with the company that is offering you the job position and bring the relevant documentation. 


Work permit as a self-employed worker: Opening your own company


It is also possible to get this initial authorization to start your own company, coming from a student visa. In Spanish, this type of permit is called “por cuenta propia”. And it can be both an S.L. or you working as an individual (autonomo)

But, if you would like to use this path, you must be careful. You will need to present a business plan, and that is not something easy. The business plan must clearly define the activity of the company, including a financial projection, and having all the sections that are required. Therefore, it is something you must put time and effort to. 

Our advice is simple. Be realistic when writing this document. Do not try to impress the government in order to get their approval. Do not say that you will create a thousand job positions if you actually won’t manage to do it. Yes, it is completely true that the institution who analyses your business plan likes it when you promote the Spanish economy. But over realistic plans don’t get approved

It is much better to be simple in that sense. If you need to say that it will only be you in the project, doing this or that activity, expecting to win X per year, much better. Usually, if you are clear and realistic, your application will get accepted. 

If you would like to get help from our business lawyers in order to successfully create a business plan that ensures your application gets accepted, do not hesitate to contact us. 


Do you have any doubts so far? Ask anything to our lawyers here and get an instant answer:



    Should I apply for the entrepreneur visa instead?


    Many citizens with the student visa, seeing how they will need to wait a total of 3 years with their current permit in order to start their company, ask us if it would be better to apply for the entrepreneur visa instead. 

    In that sense, you can still start your business and get the residency with this permit, and there is no minimum time spent in the country. 

    Nevertheless, that is not an option we recommend

    Why? Because when determining if the business project is good enough to be accepted for the entrepreneur visa, the Government is much more strict and selective. They just accept projects with a big potential to grow, which are really innovative and involve an important technological component. With the initial authorization as a freelance, you can open any kind of company (as long as it does not conduct an illegal activity), so you will not have that problem.

    Furthermore, there is responsibility for the project with the entrepreneur visa. If you would like to renew this permit, you must make sure that the business is performing as you detailed on the business plan during the upcoming years. If you fail to meet that goal… you will need to go back to your country as the renewal won’t be accepted. 

    But with the work permit as a self-employed, that does not happen. The situation is not that strict. 

    For example, when it comes to the renewal of this extension from student visa to work permit as an entrepreneur, they will just check that the company is active and still registered on the social security


    2. Getting a job offer as a highly qualified worker


    This second option does not require you to live in the country for 3 years. 

    You just need to get a job offer as a highly-skilled worker, and you will get your work permit. 

    Nevertheless, it is not that simple. We first need to understand what does an offer regarded as highly qualified mean and what are the requirements. 

    In order to obtain a work permit as a highly-skilled professional, mainly two conditions must be met:

    • The offer is as a manager or position regarded as technical
    • The salary you are going to earn is between 40.000 to 45.000€ or above

    For this student visa modification, you need to apply to the Unit of Large Companies and Strategic Sectors, the institution that will analyze the job offer. In this sense, there is a big risk of rejection. Many job positions, even though meet the salary requirement, are not considered qualified for the UGE-CE. That is why it is crucial to give a careful analysis of your application form and documents. 

    3. One-year permit extension as a student looking for a job


    Since September 2018, a new immigration law was approved. 

    This law, called in search for a job (“en búsqueda de empleo”), allows students who have been one year studying in Spain to stay for 12 additional months in order to search for a job or to start their own company

    Which are the requirements and things to consider in order to apply for this permit?

    • First of all, the job position you are searching for must be highly qualified. It cannot be a regular job, it must be a technical or managerial position, with a high salary (as we briefly went over in the last section). 
    • It is a requirement that you have passed your last or previous course at your university or center. 
    • There are two main requirements you must meet. First of all, demonstrating that you possess 7.000€ (or more) in a bank account. Then, having a Spanish medical insurance contract, without copayments). 

    As we have mentioned, the residence permit for students looking for a job is also valid for those wishing to start their own company. They will have one year in order to prepare everything that is required to start the business (business plan, trademark registration, legal constitution, etc.). Bear in mind that the project must be innovative and technological in order to be accepted. 




    Caveat: Not all universities are eligible for this extension


    You must be really careful here. Because depending on the university or masters you are studying, you may not be eligible for this additional year modification. Just a list of them is accepted by the Spanish Government.

    Is your university or course on the list? 

    You can check it in this link. 


    What happens if this year finishes and I haven’t found any job?


    It is possible that as the job offer you must find has to be as a highly qualified and paying a high salary your chances of finding one are lower. 

    But you don’t need to worry about that.

    Because if the year of the extension finished and you hadn’t found any job, you can jump into the regular regime, applying for a work permit as an employee (por cuenta ajena). This is the same option we saw in the first section, but without the need to be in the country for 3 years. 


    4. Residency for internships

    Finally, there is also the option to switch from a student visa to an internship residency, and in this case, there is no minimum period of study to do so. 

    In fact, you could apply for it both in Spain as a student visa and in your home country.

    The most important requirement is to still be a student on your student visa or to have completed your course (which must be level 6 or higher) within a period of no more than 2 years.

    This would allow you to do a paid internship through an internship agreement with your university or through a contract with the company, and then modify to an employee work permit and stay working long term in the country.


    Let us manage the application procedure for you


    Whether if its with option 1, 2 or 3, transitioning from a student visa to a work permit involves doing some paperwork and a legal application. And that can be tough, especially when it comes to the new regulation created at the end of 2018, which still does not define the whole spectrum of situations. 

    Therefore, if you consider you need legal help from an expert team of immigration lawyers, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to make your life easier. We will analyze your situation, define what would be the best past for you to follow, and manage all the documents and requirements for you. 

    Starting to work in Spain as a student has never been so easy. When should we start?


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